Sometimes, the winelands come to you
Franschhoek. A jewel. Views everywhere you look. Worldclass wine grown and served at every second address down the main street. A handful of South Africa’s top-rated restaurants, all within walking distance of each other. What a place.
But it’s all the way down there in the winelands, hours away from your home and workplace, so stopping over to enjoy fine dining and supping is not going to be an option for a great many people. Unless the winelands come to you … The pop-up store concept is not new, being utilised by people selling everything from designer socks to makeup, rugby memorabilia and coffee capsules. Various highend restaurants have also occasionally made use of the strategy, but unless it’s correctly handled, this can have the effect of making something that was already fairly exclusive downright elitist, and having the opposite effect to what was intended. Franschhoek’s Haute Cabrière wine estate is way up on most visitors’ to-visit lists when they’re in that corner of the country, and last year, they took the estate on the road, as it were, taking their wine offerings, along with menus put together by chefs Nic van Wyk and Westley Muller, who run the estate’s Cellar Restaurant, to venues in Johannesburg, Pretoria and on KwaZulu-Natal’s North Coast. This year, the itinerary has been expanded – more venues in Gauteng and an added stop on the Garden Route – because of overwhelming demand.
The elitism worry is instantly settled by two facets of the events. First, Van Wyk and Muller are immediately likeable, approachable characters, looking and sounding like the type of guys you’d invite over for a braai rather than being precious, entitled celebrity types. Second, the Haute Cabrière and Pierre Jourdan vintages served with six-course meals are uniformly fantastic. This is almost never the case when tasting a range of wines from a single estate, and it removes the silly social pressure of feeling that you need to nod sagely as companions mumble about the essence of beeswax and hint of shorn sheep as they swirl their wine noisily around their mouths. The menu highlights for this year’s tour include pan-fried Patagonia calamari with black tomato sauce and seared scallops, paired with the Haute Cabrière Unwooded Pinot Noir, and a dessert of chocolate torte with amaretti crumbs, candied pecan nuts and salted caramel popcorn, accompanied by a glass of Pierre Jourdan Ratafia.